In the still dark and decidedly wet days of early February, Schools' Cricket aficionados might be excused for thinking that there is not much going on. Although there are competitions in so many of the winter sports in full flow it is at this time of the year that the preparations for the season ahead must be drawn up. For many there would have been a concern on hearing that the Mid Ulster Cricket Group (MUCG) was being wound up (in the very proper sense, of course) that there would be a marked decline in the competitive cricket to be played in the mercifully longer summer term afforded by this year's earlier Eastertide.

On the contrary - the out-going Chairman of the Northern Schools Committee, Harold McCrory, having been one of the late Wesley Ferris's lieutenants in the MUCG, set the ball rolling in a discussion as to what might be done. It is a clear tribute to Wesley and the regard in which he was held that the already busy Schools Committee felt that many of the trophies should continue, and that they were prepared to oversee their running. Furthermore various people have indicated that they are willing to act as Competition Co-ordinators and so the various Minibuses should be criss-crossing the province during the months of May and June! Whether it will be possible, as it was almost without exception during Wesley's tenancy, to put all the competitions to bed by the end of June remains to be seen, but the will to attempt this is there.

What this means is that there will be in excess of 40 Schools each involved in at least one of the dozen events, a number that swells to 14 if you count the Schools and Under 15 Plates as separate to their `parent' competitions. The Committee realise that this does not include every one of the Schools which participated in the MUCG, but the hope is that if all goes well this year others may be included. There is no doubt that Wesley's special talents included one of persuading harassed pedagogues that for the sake of their love of Cricket and the interests of their pupils, entering and taking part was highly desirable!

The Schools Committee, under the leadership of former NCU Chairman Richard Johnson (left), are also aware that the question of Schoolgirls' Cricket is also one they will have to visit. It is known that there is a Girls' Cup Competition out there and it is my hope that I can supply some information on it in future. In the meantime readers will have to content themselves with the following facts:

  • The Ulster Bank Schools Cup (and Plate) have acquired 33 entries - Friends School II and Limavady GS II will play off in a Preliminary Round Match.
  • The Gordon McCullough Memorial Cup has 10 entries.
  • The Sherrygroom Cup has also 10 entries.
  • The JC Picken Memorial Cup has 7 entries (which includes the loser of the Ulster Bank Preliminary Round match).
  • The Ulster Bank Under 15 Cup, with the Jubilee Trophy being awarded for its Plate Event, has attracted a massive 34 entries.
  • The Schools Under 14 League has 27 entries.
  • The Derriaghy Cup (also Under 14, but knock-out) has 23 entries.
  • The Mourne Cup Section of the Moyallen Shield (Under 13) has 20 schools.
  • The Slemish Cup Section of the Moyallen Shield has 11 entries.
  • And finally - 15 in the Centenary Cup with a further 10 in the, as yet un-named, B Section.

So, as you can see, there is plenty going on and much more to follow. Winter Nets for many underage squads have been in progress; Ulster Schools nets commenced last Friday though it will be, as ever, difficult for players to juggle these around Winter activities. Nonetheless, and despite the reluctance of Leinster Schools to agree to a 2-day fixture this year, there is plenty for aspiring Ulster Schoolboys to aim for and let us all hope that the Winter "Monsoon" gives way to something more accommodating come early April.

Oil those bats.